The history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, now known as the Philadelphia Boulevard Church, goes back to the 1940s when the congregation met in several rented places of worship, but had no place that they could say was their own. Then in 1944, under the leadership of Elder C. L. Blandford, a Methodist Church on the corner of 18th & Spruce in downtown Philadelphia was purchased for $50,000.00. This building not only served as a place for worship for the Philadelphia Temple Church (the name by which it was known at that time), but it also was used as a gathering place for Conference-wide conventions.
Despite the prominence and beauty of this church home, as the years passed, several factors made it less desirable for a place of worship and evangelism. Very few members lived in the vicinity of this downtown location. Parking became a serious handicap, especially when limitations of parking time were placed on the streets around the church and when meters were installed, the church faced an even serious problem. There was also a need for many interior alterations.
Then, in the spring of 1953, an unusual and unforeseen event occurred that completely changed the life of the church. A Jewish congregation known as Temple Beth Zion, many of whom lived in the vicinity of 18th & Spruce, asked to purchase the church building. After several months of negotiation and in counsel with the East Pennsylvania Conference officials, the church was sold to our Jewish friends for $225,000.00. One year was given our congregation to vacate the building.
This proved to be too short a time to relocate. So, through the kindness of the Board of the Congregational Church in the Frankford area of the city, we were able to rent their church for Sabbath services in the spring of 1954 until the new church was ready for occupancy in May of 1957. The kindness of the Congregational Church and their pastor will always be remembered.
The present location of the Philadelphia Boulevard Church was found as the result of the intervention of our Lord and Savior. Much time was spent on a new location for the church, but, without success. It was a very frustrating time for the congregation. But then, a miracle happened. Henry Ziegler, a Realtor we had asked to help us, called and said a 4-acre piece of ground along Roosevelt Boulevard had just been placed on the market for $32,500 plus a Realtor’s fee of about $1,500.00. Mr. Ziegler offered to have his firm buy the property and turn it over to us in a month for the same price they paid, which would give us time to secure the necessary approvals from several committees. And this is how this church now stands in its present location – a miracle of God’s leading.
Ground was broken for the new building in July 1955 and the cornerstone was laid in May of 1956. The architect was Ronald Senseman and the contractor was Walter J. Adams. Francis Wernick was the pastor until August of 1956 when Elder Stephen Paully became pastor and led out in completing the building. The church was dedicated free of debt on June 7, 1958.
None of us in 1953 could foresee that it would be five years from the time the church at 18th & Spruce was sold until a dedication service would be held in 1958 for a new sanctuary of worship on Roosevelt Boulevard. Neither could we see ahead 50 years from the time ground was broken in 1955 to this occasion in 2005. Looking back, however, we can see the hand of God leading all the way. And, He is still leading.
In the 1950s, the development of the Northeast area of Philadelphia was just beginning. Now, the Boulevard Church is poised to reach a large segment of population in this area. We pray for God to give each member the vision needed in order to accomplish His purpose for this important part of the Philadelphia area.